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California

Carlsbad priest found guilty of groping seminary student

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The. Rev. Juan Garcia Castillo
(Photo courtesy Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego)

A Carlsbad, Calif., priest accused of grabbing a seminary student’s groin in a restroom stall during a night of heavy drinking was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery Monday.

The jury verdict against the Rev. Juan Garcia Castillo came after three days of trial in San Diego County Superior Court last week that delved into the nuances of Catholic philosophies and provided a small glimpse into the social lives of priests.

Jurors deliberated roughly two hours before reaching their decision.

“The evidence spoke for itself pretty loudly, and the jury ended up doing the right thing,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Joshua Brisbane said.

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Castillo’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Castillo faces up to six months in jail when he is sentenced Jan. 18.

The 33-year-old victim — a former Navy lawyer who left his career to join the priesthood — had met Castillo just hours before the night in question at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Carlsbad, where Castillo was an associate priest.

Castillo, 35, invited the victim and a fellow seminarian out for drinks that Saturday night, on Feb. 3, and for hours the priest pushed Long Island iced teas on them, according to testimony.

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Feeling sick from the alcohol, the victim went to the restroom and started to vomit in a toilet shortly before 1 a.m. Castillo followed him in.

The victim testified that Castillo approached him from behind in the stall, reached around and grabbed his groin. He told the priest to go away, but Castillo came in a second time, pulling and massaging the student’s genitals in a sexual way, the student testified. The student again told him to leave.

Castillo testified that he went in the bathroom because it appeared the victim would be sick, and that he had only been trying to put pressure on the student’s stomach to stop the vomiting. He testified that his mother had taught him that trick as a child.

The two texted at length in the hour or so following the incident, with the student angrily informing Castillo he would be reporting what happened and Castillo responding with mixtures of confusion and apologies.

Castillo testified that some of the texts — including ones in which he promised to go to confession — were not genuine but sarcastic, and that his apologies were only for his role in getting the victim drunk and sick.

Castillo was removed from his post at the Carlsbad parish on Feb. 4. He was responsible for covering the cost of his legal expenses.

Davis and Figueroa write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

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teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com


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